OPM seeks to clarify national security roles

Proposed rule would update standard for determining which jobs are considered national security positions.

The Office of Personnel Management has proposed expanding the definition of jobs that are considered national security positions.

In the proposed rule, published in Tuesday's Federal Register, OPM says the change is part of its effort to simplify and streamline federal investigative and adjudicative processes to make them more efficient.

The proposed rule would clarify, not change, the standard agencies follow to designate national security positions. Under current guidelines, a national security job in any department or agency is held by an individual who "could bring about, by virtue of the nature of the position, a material adverse effect on the national security," whether or not the position requires access to classified information.

OPM notes that federal employees who don't have access to classified information, such as those who protect borders, ports and critical infrastructure, as well as those in positions related to protection of government information systems, could still potentially exert a material adverse effect on national security.

"OPM therefore proposes to update the definition of 'national security position' to add positions where the duties include 'protecting the nation, its citizens and residents from acts of terrorism, espionage, or foreign aggression,'" the proposed rule states.

Among the positions OPM suggests adding are those employees who protect or control access to facilities or information systems; those who control, maintain custody, safeguard or dispose of hazardous materials, arms, ammunition or explosives; and those who perform criminal justice, public safety or law enforcement duties.

OPM cautions that not all positions with those responsibilities will be reclassified. "In each instance, agencies must make a determination of whether the occupant's neglect, action or inaction could bring about a material adverse effect on the national security, i.e., could cause at least 'significant or serious damage to the national security.'"